Chickpea sambusak (Photo: Miriam Kresh/Unpacked)

Sambusak are savory turnovers filled with chickpeas, ground meat, cheese or potatoes. They’re good as appetizers or to pack into a lunch box, or to have on hand frozen when guests are coming and you need something to offer, in a hurry.

I like this spicy chickpea filling. But it’s easy to vary the filling with cheese and scallions, or ground beef or mashed potatoes mixed with the spiced, fried onion mixture detailed below.

You can either fry or bake sambusak. While it’s healthier to bake them, there’s something about a fried sambusak – particularly a deep-fried one – like the kind you can pick up in the market or at schwarma stands – that’s so good.

I fry these yeast-raised ones in shallow oil. If you prefer to bake your sambusak, use the second dough recipe, which is unleavened.

Chickpea sambusak

PrintPrep2 hours 45 minutes Cook Time30 minutes Yield20 turnovers


For the dough

  • ¼ ounce dry yeast, or 1 cube fresh yeast1
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

For simple, unleavened dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted margarine or butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten for glazing baked sambusak
  • Sesame seeds for baked sambuska

For the chickpea filling

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp white pepper – or use 1 teaspoon of either white or black pepper
  • Oil for shallow frying


For the yeasted dough

  • In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water.
  • Add the salt, baking powder and sugar. Stir.
  • Add the flour a cup at a time. Mix, then knead until the dough is firm.
  • Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise for 2 hours.

For simple, unleavened dough

  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the salt.
  • In a large bowl, beat the margarine or butter until it’s creamy. Add the flour, mixing well as you go.
  • Add the water and mix well.
  • Knead the dough until a smooth ball forms. Cover the bowl and put it aside. The dough will ferment slightly while you’re busy making the filling.

For the chickpea filling

  • Put the chickpeas in a strainer. Drain and rinse them.
  • Put them through a food processor until they’re a chunky paste, or blend them.
  • Fry the onions in the olive oil until translucent.
  • Add the dry spices to the onions; stir and cook about 3 minutes.
  • Add the spiced onions to the chickpeas and mix everything up well.

Form the pastries:

  • Take pieces out of the dough until you have 20 equal-sized pieces. Pat each piece into a rough circle in the palm of your hand as you work.
  • Flour your work surface and roll each patty into a circle about 3 inches in diameter. Don’t be afraid to roll them out thin, especially with the yeasted dough.
  • Place a tablespoon of stuffing in the middle of each circle. Fold the dough over to make a triangle, hiding the stuffing.
  • Pinch the edges of the sambusak together, or crimp them with a fork, to seal them.
  • Fry the sambusak in shallow oil over medium heat. Turn them over when the first side is golden, and fry the other side. Drain on paper towels or crumbled newspaper and serve hot.
  • Or, preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Lay the sambusak in a baking pan. Glaze the upper sides with a beaten egg; sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Unbaked (or un-fried) sambusak can be frozen in layers, then packed into heavy Ziploc bags. Put them straight into hot oil or a preheated oven when you take them out of the freezer, and proceed as above.

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